Elmswell: Tenants frozen out in eco homes

FRUSTRATED residents in an eco-friendly development fear they may face a freezing Christmas after their biomass boiler broke for the second winter running.

Tenants of Orwell Housing Association who live in the scheme’s 26 homes in Clay Fields, Elmswell, were left shivering yesterday morning after both a biomass and stand-by gas boiler packed in.

Resident Emma Stevenson, 27, said the temperature in her home plummeted to just 12C.

“It is incredibly frustrating and annoying,” she said. “These are wonderful houses. They are supposed to be eco-friendly properties that serve the community, but it just isn’t working.”

The �4.67million development, which opened in November 2008 and won an award from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) for its design, uses a shared biomass boiler fuelled by woodchips, installed with a �100,000 grant from the Low Carbon Building Trust.


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A gas boiler is in place as a back-up if it encounters technical problems, but both failed yesterday during one of the coldest snaps of the year.

Heat and hot water were restored at lunchtime as the gas boiler was repaired, but problems continue to blight the biomass boiler.

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This is the second winter tenants have been left in the cold. Residents claimed the street was left without hot water or heating for 13 days when the biomass boiler broke in January.

Mrs Stevenson claimed she was told to boil kettles, while her children were left to huddle around two electric heaters supplied by Orwell Housing Association.

“The biomass boiler is an excellent idea, but if it’s not working, there needs to be an alternative solution,” she said. “It is dangerous and something needs to be done about it.”

Single mother Natalie Duro, 27, claimed she and her three-year-old son, Theo, had been left in the cold three times in the past year due to boiler problems.

“It is a nightmare living here,” she said. “Clearly the boiler can’t cope with the demand from the houses.

“I bought this house because it was an eco-home. You kind of fear for your Christmas.”

Wendy Evans-Hendrick, Orwell Housing Association’s director of development and property services, said engineers had arrived to resolve the problem yesterday within an hour of it being reported.

“Boilers sometimes break down,” she said. “It’s a more sophisticated system so there are more things that can potentially go wrong.”

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